Frequently Asked Questions about the Common Application

Is participation in the pilot mandatory?

Participation in the pilot is voluntary. If you do not wish to have your REU Site participate in the pilot, you don’t need to do anything. Simply continue your application process the way you have previously done it.

Do I still need to fulfill NSF’s reporting requirements through the Research Performance Progress Report System at if I participate in the pilot?

Yes, you will still need to report to NSF as you typically do. Through your participation in the pilot, you will have access to aggregate information on your applicants and participants, which will facilitate reporting and providing evidence for grant renewal proposals.

I understand that REU Sites who adopted the REU Data System in fall 2019 are invited to participate in the common application pilot. Can I participate in the registration pilot instead?

No, the registration system will not be available to pilot for program year 2020. If you piloted the registration system last year, you may adopt the common application system this year, or use your own application system.

What information will the common application collect?

The common application will request the following:

  • Basic information from applicants that can be used to identify unique individuals, match them to National Student Clearinghouse records, monitor program eligibility, and track applicants over time
  • Demographic information (such as gender and citizenship) and current college enrollment (such as college name and years completed)
  • A few items designed to gauge applicants’ socioeconomic background, which can be leveraged for student selection, research, and evaluation purposes
  • Questions about previous REU participation and prior academic achievement
  • Additional information, such as the Sites to which students wish to apply, a personal statement, a resume and college transcript, and the names of two references

Please go to Screenshots for screenshots of the REU common application system.

Can I request additional information from applicants?

The REU Data System has built-in flexibility for Sites to request additional information. If you would like applicants to answer additional questions or upload additional materials to the common application, you may add instructions to the REU Data System by uploading a PDF file, or you can specify up to three additional application questions when completing the principal investigator module. Use the "Additional Applications Requirements" feature under the "Application Info" tab in the module to upload your PDF file or enter your additional questions. Applicants will be prompted to view the document you’ve uploaded or the questions inserted when they select your Site in the common application. They will be able to respond to your instructions by (1) uploading additional materials (in a PDF file) or (2) entering text of up to 4,500 characters to respond to each question you added.

How will applicants know they are supposed to use the common application?

You will have to inform applicants to apply to your REU Site through the common application at They will also find out if they visit the REU website.

When will the common application become available to students?

Students can apply to your Site on the start date you indicated in the REU Data System (under the "Application Info" tab when they log into your REU Site website).

How many staff members from my REU Site can be designated as users in the REU Data System?

You may designate up to nine staff members as users to manage your REU Site in the REU Data System. Among other things, designated users can enter admissions decisions, record program participation, and download data. You may revoke their access at any time. All users will have to sign a nondisclosure agreement.

What if an applicant is unable to complete the common application online?

If an applicant is unable to complete an online form, please ask the student to contact or call 1-800-232-8024 for help. A study team member can enter the information into the REU system on the student’s behalf.

My REU Site has multiple REU awards active. Which award should I enter in the REU Data System?

The REU Data System allows each principal investigator to report on one award only. You should enter the award being used to support students for your 2019 cycle. This is typically the most recent grant you were awarded. If you’re unsure which award is appropriate, contact a study team member at or 1-800-232-8024.

I want to get started using the REU Data System. How do I get my principal investigator REU ID?

Go to and register to create your account. During registration, you will be asked to specify your primary email address and create a password. When your registration is complete, your REU ID will be sent to your email address. Please note that you must specify the email address associated with your FastLane account to successfully register. If you’re unsure what email address is associated with your FastLane account, contact or call 1-800-232-8024. If you’d like to associate your account with a different email address, you will have to contact your program officer at NSF to approve the change.

How do I enter admission decisions?

You can update admission decisions either manually or through a CSV file upload.

To manually update applicants’ records, navigate to the "Applicants" page in the principal investigator module. This page will display a table that lists the applicants to your 2019 REU Site. You may enter admissions and applicant decisions directly into the table.

To do a bulk upload of decisions, first navigate to the "Applicants" page in the principal investigator module, and click on "Add/Edit Multiple Applicants" to download an applicant file template (readable in Excel). Enter your updates directly in this file and then save it as a CSV (comma-delimited) file. You can then upload the CSV file to the Site to update single or multiple applicant records.

How can I report participants in my REU Site?

Navigate to the "Participants" page in the principal investigator module. This page will display a table that lists those applicants who have been admitted to your program and have agreed to participate (as indicated on the "Applicants" page in the module.) You will have to enter participation status and funding sources into the table.

My REU Site is already full. Can I close my application window?

You may close your application window at any time through the principal investigator module to stop receiving applications. However, you are strongly discouraged to change you application due date earlier than originally stated, as prospective applicants might wait until the last day to submit their applications to your Site. You should feel free to extend the application window, as that can only benefit prospective applicants.

If you have to reopen your application window after you have closed it, you must contact a site administrator at or 1-800-232-8024.

Whom should I contact for technical assistance?

If you need technical assistance, please contact a study team member toll-free at 1-800-232-8024 or at